By Gary R. Rasberry
FORT RECOVERY -- Fort Recovery coach Brian Patch was happy that his team was able to come back from 17 points down against Versailles on Monday, although the one-point loss dampened some of his pride.
Friday, Patch was happy that his team could be on the other side of the ledger. New Knoxville made a charge in the third quarter and took the lead several times.
The Indians, however, recovered and took control at the start of the fourth quarter to post a 65-56 win over the Rangers at Fort Site Fieldhouse.
The win snaps Fort Recovery's two-game Midwest Athletic Conference losing streak at two and evens the conference ledger at 2-2 while going to 6-2 overall. The Rangers fall to 1-3 in the MAC and 4-5 overall.
The Indians jumped to a strong start, scoring 21 points in the opening quarter and pushed their lead to 34-27 at the half. Fort Recovery missed only nine shots out of 25 opportunities in the opening half, tallying a 64 percent field goal percentage. Greg Faller hit the first five shots he took in the first half to score all of his 10 points in the first 16 minutes. Tyler Wuebker also scored 10 but was limited in playing time in the second half after picking up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. "We usually start out slow and tonight we scored 21 in the first quarter," said Patch. "It would have been nice if we didn't have to take that halftime break because I thought we came out with a pretty strong first-half effort."
"Our man-to-man defense in the first half was atrocious," said New Knoxville coach Dan Hegemier. "Their point guard (Faller), I give him credit, he ate us up."
The Rangers did not fade away. An 8-0 run to start the third quarter pushed New Knoxville in front 35-34 with 4:52 left in the quarter. Ross Stienecker and Dustan Kruse had four points each in the run. The teams traded the lead until Fort Recovery got the lead for good at 39-38 with 1:13 left in the quarter. New Knoxville still stayed in, thanks in large part to a Kurt Brown half-court three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to cut Fort Recovery's lead to 43-41.
The Indians made sure that the momentum stayed on their side as the fourth quarter started and Clint Tobe hit a jumper to start a 9-0 run. Travis VanSkyock followed up with a three-pointer that bounced around several times on the rim before dropping in.
New Knoxville tried to post another rally, getting as close at 52-46 midway through the quarter but the Indians were able to make their trips to the foul line count, something that haunted them in the Versailles loss. Fort Recovery made 14-of-20 free throws in the second half, including 11-of-14 in the fourth quarter.
"We hit 14-of-20, that's something we think we can do a little better with," said Patch. "We hit them when we needed to. We have to do a better job hitting those free throws earlier (the Indians were 15-of-22 for the game)."
With the deficit, the Rangers were forced to fire up shots from long range, allowing the Indians to have a clear shot at most of the misses. The Indians dominated the battle of the boards by a 33-12 margin.
"I didn't realize we won the boards (by that much)," said Patch. "Some of that was from them shooting the long threes late in the game. They (New Knoxville) did a pretty good job checking us on the offensive boards. Most of our rebounds were defensive (26 to seven offensive)."
"We didn't execute at half court," said Hegemier. "We knew a zone was coming. We haven't seen a zone in a game and it was very evident. We didn't shoot the ball well from the perimeter (4-of-18 from the three-point line). We work hard, do a lot of positive things, but we've just got to carry it over."
VanSkyock paced the Indians with 17 points and 10 rebounds while Sean Kahlig added 14 points.
Kruse led the Rangers with 15 points. Kale Wierwille and Josh Niemeyer added 11 with Stienecker finishing with 10.
Fort Recovery stays at Fort Site tonight to host the Ansonia Tigers.
Tribe-Rangers girls game today: The Fort Recovery-New Knoxville girls game that was postponed on Thursday will be played today at Ranger Gymnasium starting at 1 p.m.